Joan Didion’s “The Last Thing He Wanted”

The novel’s storyline of international intrigue doesn’t interest me nearly as much as the power of the writing itself. I am hooked immediately by the narrative voice and Didon’s skillful style.  It looks easy but is not.  The parade of paragraphs is far from conventional. It is successfully non-sentimental, as we are led to believe the author prefers things. But I don’t find it cold. It’s unique, maybe hip, and at times choppy and not always linear. Didion has the artfulness to pull it off and make the prose sound superb. If it sounds at times disjointed and loopy then it fits the world it describes.

Some of us really like opening chapters that sound notes or chords of the music that will run through the rest of the novel ahead. I’m well set up and tuned in, after reading the concise compilation of mood and circumstance presented in C1. It’s a poem and a prelude and a functional opener in only 500 words or so. It’s something a writer can study and learn from.

Didion is probably more well known for her non-fiction and essays. Of the ones I’ve read, “Miami” is my favorite, for all the light the author provides on the history of Cuba’s association with the city. The White Album is on my list to do. I’ve read one or two other Didion novels, and solely for its unique style and perfect language, “The Last Thing” is the best I’ve experienced so far.

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